Sparking the Right Connection; Why Choosing the Right LMS System is Critical to Your Success

By Julie Bos
When digital free-form technology first hit the scene, it sent shockwaves through the optical industry—offering a revolutionary new way to process lenses. A few years later, as more and more labs are going digital, plenty of people are still trying to dial in the process. And one aspect of the transition is particularly critical—the functionality of your Lab Management System (LMS) software.

To help answer a few of the most common questions relating to LMS software, we sought input from several of today’s leading LMS software providers: CC Systems, Digital Vision, Inc. (DVI) and Optical Lab Software Solutions, Inc.

When migrating from a standard generator to a digital free-form generator, why is choosing the right LMS software so important?

According to John Keane at DVI, the big difference between LMS software for digital generators versus traditional generators is how they interface with the free-form lens design systems (LDS) provided by the lens companies. In addition to communicating with the free-form design data, the LMS must also be able to integrate into the existing lab workflow. This requires that the LMS be able to predict the manufacturing feasibility of the end product and properly select the correct lens base curve, size and thickness that the free-form system will require for the generator. The LMS must then use this information to manage the use of the laser and mechanical engravers. Finally, the LMS must manage lens-inventory complications introduced when using either single vision lenses or “pucks” to produce styles, and also assist in calculating click fees.

How is the LMS process with free-form generators different?

Steve Dombey, international sales manager at CC Systems, explained that in the past, information went straight from the LMS to the traditional generator. With digital free-form generators, now labs have an extra step involving the LDS (Lens Design Software). So what was once two-way communication has now become three-way communication, which adds a degree of complexity that wasn’t there before.

Running a lab is all about how quickly, efficiently, easily and accurately the lab can process jobs—without having to stop at every stage to re-enter data. In an ideal world, labs want to enter lens information once into the LMS, and then have that data automatically fed to the free-form LDS, which will then automatically—either directly or via the LMS—feed it straight into the digital free-form generator. The goal is to avoid entering data twice.

What’s the difference between a standard generator and a digital generator’s dependency on LMS software?

According to Jodi Nickerson, sales and marketing manager at Optical Lab Software Solutions, Inc., all laboratory equipment marketed today, including standard toric equipment and digital capable equipment, is heavily dependent on the LMS to provide the required data to manufacture lenses.

When integrating digital lens technology into a lab, the LMS is responsible for managing the results of both traditional and digital calculations. Traditional calculations are produced solely by the LMS, while digital calculations are provided by the lens manufacturer’s digital calculator (LDS) and then integrated with the LMS to handle all the other aspects of the order, such as selecting the appropriate lens blank and managing the production process. The LMS is also responsible for managing communication with a variety of digital calculators simultaneously, as well as a variety of lab equipment. Therefore, it’s important that the LMS can interpret the data from different LDS calculators and provide the data to all the equipment in the correct manner. Ideally, the LMS should be able to interface with all equipment in such a way that either traditional or digital jobs can be run on the equipment transparently to the user.

Tips for a Successful LMS Software Implementation

Gather Plenty of Input There are countless things to consider when making the decision to implement digital free-form technology—and the LMS software that goes along with it. First and foremost, don’t rely on one source for all the answers. Make sure you communicate with all the players early in the discovery process. Schedule combined meetings with your LMS provider and potential lens and equipment vendors to openly discuss the project and set clear expectations. Keep all parties informed as you make important decisions and work your project plan.

Take the Time to Visit Reference Labs Remember that experience counts. Once you have a good idea of which hardware/LMS/LDS combination your lab wants to use, make a visit to at least two labs using the exact same setup (using the same generator, the same LMS and the same LDS). Have your prospective LMS vendor provide details about their experience level, recent installations and the names of a few reference labs using these exact systems. Remember, if any one of the three parts is different, it’s an entirely new integration and a new learning curve.

Take Your Time

The investment of time and money should be approached with great care and consideration because the LMS will ultimately affect every aspect of your business. Take time to prepare a detailed needs analysis for your business—and don’t forget to anticipate what your needs will be three-plus years down the road. This will allow you to present your business requirements to prospective LMS providers, evaluate systems, obtain estimates and compare the information effectively. Consider the long-term longevity of the LMS provider (will they be in business five years from now?). Examine each provider’s level of experience with servicing other labs similar to yours. Obtain customer references, and visit at least two labs using your prospective vendor’s LMS software in a live environment.

Consider Each Provider’s Independent Free-form Offerings

Find out what free-form offerings each LMS offers independent of the lens manufacturers. For example, DVI and CC Systems’ digital process comes with the ability to apply rear side aspheric treatments, slab-offs and custom round or blended segs to any lens. Learning about these offerings upfront can help you understand your exact needs.

Prepare for a Few Hiccups Along the Way

Digital technology is moving forward at a very rapid pace. Equipment manufacturers are releasing new firmware upgrades for their equipment; lens vendors are releasing new LDS software versions for new products; and LMS companies are aggressively developing and releasing new code to support all the changes in the industry. Labs often bear the weight of installing “on-the-edge technology”—and a few bumps in the road should be expected.

Check Out the Technical Support

When a lab goes from conventional grinding to digital, it’s a whole new world. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s like starting from square one—learning how to make lenses all over again. Getting expert technical support will be critical to your lab’s success. Ask your prospective vendors about their technical support offering, and weigh the information carefully. Some LDS providers, like IOT won’t charge a lab for the first two months because it expects that during the beginning, a lab will have a steep learning curve resolving the complexity of digital processing and providing free samples to their dispensing customers.

Do Your Homework Before Making Any Updates

Don’t install any updates—equipment, LDS or LMS—before making sure all vendors can verify that they can support the changes. Due diligence in understanding the update and how to test it is key. Prepare your staff well in advance and make sure they understand the changes in functionality and process before you install the update. Work closely with your vendors on any issues and be prepared to help them solve the problem by providing accurate information and supporting details.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Remember, you want to get all your vendors talking. And when it comes to anything relating to the computer systems that run your business, always consult your LMS supplier before making any changes.

Hire Qualified Employees

The required skill set for employees working on a new system will vary depending on the size and complexity of the business, as well as the specific area of the LMS with which the employee will be interacting. Ideally your system administrator should have above-average computer skills, basic knowledge of networks and at least one year of optical experience to oversee the day-to-day system management.

Today’s Leading LMS Solutions

Optical Lab Software Solutions Optifacts Software, Vision Star Software, OMICS Software

Digital Vision, Inc.

VISION Software

CC Systems, Inc.

Labzilla, Innovations


Labtalk June 2020